Will Burn Fat for Heat

It's 28 degrees F here in Santa Fe this morning, but bright and sunny. I just took Cookie for a walk and left my coat, cap, and gloves behind. A half an hour and 3540 steps in the cold and it feels pretty good.

Last year, when it was warm in the northern hemisphere, there was discussion about the discovery of brown fat cells, brown adipose tissue (BAT), in human adults and the fact that cold would activate the tissue to burn fat for heat. Most of our fat cells, adipose tissue, are purely for storage. They sop up excess fat from the bloodstream and convert it into love handles. BAT, on the other hand, burns fat to keep your body warm.

This year, simulated paleolithic life styles are all the rage in the media. So far, Boing Boing explained paleo baths which use warm water alone, the Washington Post got into paleo cuisine, and the New York Times explained paleo diets and exercise regimes. Ten thousand years ago, all of our ancestors had bodies pretty much like ours and lived lives that were pretty different from ours. What might be gained by reverting, at least in part, to life styles that more resemble theirs?

I am trying to walk more this year. I found a pedometer application for my G1 Android phone and I'm dutifully noting how far I go. I'm trying to reach the 10,000 steps a day advocated by a fat camp that was featured on TV a week or so ago. The pedometer doesn't count all day, it loses count anytime another application intervenes, but I've made a single walk of 7,600 steps more than half uphill through the snowy arroyos.

I'm out marching around the snowy arroyos dutifully bundled in my fleeces and wools, and suddenly I notice that it's cold outside. And while I'm burning so many calories doing the work of lugging my one-hundred-and-ninety pound frame around the arroyo, I'm burning basically no calories to keep warm because I'm wearing all these modern miracle fabrics.

Ah ha! Paleo didn't have synchilla long johns, paleo probably didn't even get dressed to go take a pee in the middle of the night. Paleo burned fat for heat.

That's the hypothesis. We'll see how it plays out over the rest of the winter.